tv [untitled] May 6, 2012 1:30pm-2:00pm EDT
and it is amazing how fast all of this was changing every ten, 15 years the whole city rearranged itself like it does today. as for the new york herald building, a beautiful italian renaissance palazzo and a machine for selling newspapers. how is that? what you see as black on the ground floor were huge plate glass windows. inside was the printing plant for the new york herald which was a two-story high printing plant. the lower story is below the ground, and the second story at street level is the upper part of the printing plant. after the theater was over, you would come out of the theater. this was ablaze with electric light. most people went home to glass lighting. you stepped up onto a wonderful veranda terrace and looked through the plate glass windows
and watched them printing tomorrow's new york herald. they had turned a gritty industrial process basically into entertainment which is very post industrial, very 21st century. then while you are watching them printing the newspaper, a newspaper kid is running up and shoving the new york herald in your face and telling you to buy it and you better buy it, it is new york, so you buy it. you notice that the building facing herald square, typical of the marketing acumen and they didn't have wrist watches and only the rich would have a private time piece. your own weather channel, a barometer, not that i know how to read barometers, but there it is. at the very top of the building stuff and gruff, they would bang out the hours every hour, so it was a little bit of entertainment and people would gather to look at them and hear them and mid-1920s it comes down and all that far is left in the middle of herald square and you know herald square, it used to look like a jackson pollack painting and done by pigeons, and now they have art on herald square and it is beautiful what they have done, cafe tables, gardens, and kiosks and there in the middle is stuff and gruff.
this was really a newspaper office as an entertainment complex to help sell newspapers, and while the theater district is evolving over on broadway and up towards time square, on fifth avenue a new upscale shopping district is going up, and from 34th street to 42nd and beyond going up to 57th. this is the 1900s and in the middle of the upscale shopping district one of the finest buildings in the city ever, one of the finest institutions, the new york public library opens in 1911. i grew up in this building. i love this building. i was always privilege toy the fact that anybody can walk into the new york public library. of course. they don't even ask for i d. they never did. they don't today. they may look at your bag, purse, whatever, but they do not
ask you for i d. in the middle of the 1960s i lived in paris for two years, going there to study at the soar bone of architectural history and i went into a french public library and going to get a book and the first thing the librarian said is where is your i.d. i looked at her and said i.d., what do i need an i.d. for, and she said it is a democracy as long as you have an i.d. it is very french. there is no i.d. needed in the new york public library and like the other public buildings of that generation a big friendly building that told you where to enter and pulled back from fifth avenue for a beautiful terrace and the only free place to sit down on fifth avenue until rockefeller center was built in the 1930s, a very bozar idea, very civilized idea and we enter the great steps and taken up the steps, the ground floor is completely free for services and the truck entrance and limousine entrance used to be on 40th street and on the southern end of 40th street and on the northern end is 42nd street and can the back is bryant park stretching to sixth avenue. here we can see of course the library being generated from the italian palazzo mode and looking at your maps of the library itself, this is the ground
floor. we come up with the step from fifth avenue and enter astor hall, named for brook astor that did wonderful things for the city especially in the 1930s when everybody was running away from new york. the going wisdom was by 2000 new york would be a ghost town. these are very pricey ghosts we have around here today. in the middle of all of that misery in the 1970s he kept on having faith in the city. i really have to thank her for that and so does the library. this is the town square of the library, astor hall and intersects the main boulevard that run from 42nd street to 40th street and across the boulevard and there are two light ports and you think it is a solid building, no. two huge light ports bring light pouring into the middle of the building and beyond the main boulevard and the entrance hall, the town square, the exhibition hall, the library is not only for research, it has a huge collection.
it has manuscripts and rare books and art. it also has to have exhibitions. that is a wonderful exhibition hall with light, indirect light pouring in because of the light ports on either side. go up to the third floor, now on the third floor of the library, and the mcgraw rotunda serves the third floor like the astor court serves the first floor. it is the town square of the third floor. to the east of it is the solomon room and the other exhibition all behind the cornice. if you look at the photo on the upper right, when you think is a blind cornice at the top of the building that you think is dead space, this is america, there is no dead space in a building. you have to pay for yourself. behind that cornice, a beautiful exhibition room with north facing sky lights, so it is beautifully lit with indirect lighting and if you go west from the mcgraw rotunda is the public catalog room, the bill blass catalog room and flooded with light because of the light ports on either side and that leads us to one of the magnificent spaces of the era
and any era, the reading room, a beautiful space where i spent many a time when i was a kid going into high school. two blocks long, two city looks long and could have been over bearing and could have looked like a bowling alley and could have looked like a lot of things but instead it is a beautiful space, one of the great interior spaces of the city again, no i.d. needed. you go in. you leave. they check your bag and no i.d. is needed. flooded with light. the windows on the right feed flooded with light. the windows on the right feed from the light, from the light ports, the windows on the left the light from bryant park. you always have a beautiful
light filled room and the pavilion is where you get your books and the pneumatic tube system they installed in 1911 to retrieve your books from the stacks collection they were still using in the early 2000s. if they changed over to a computer system, you know you would still be there waiting for your books. with the pneumatic tube system in ten minutes they had your book, and just the whole thing is in between the esthetics, the high tech machinery, the light that fills up the room, brilliant piece of work. then in the morn light port entered from 42nd street if you see the red arrow, you know where you enter from 42nd street you can enter the glass sky lit single floor circulating library. today the circulating library is over at mid-manhattan across fifth avenue at 40th street and that space is used at the bartow sporeum, a beautiful, high tech, italic neoclassicism fills in
the northern light port and because of the planning you can enter from 42nd street and this allows the rest of the building to close down while they have parties until midnight or whenever. it is almost like a building within a building, brilliant, practical planning, the back from bryant park, the vertical strip windows delineate the stacks. above that the round arch windows of the reading room and many people consider the elevation and the vertical strip windows looking forward to the art deco of the '20s and by the way before the stock market crashed in 2008 the library announced that they didn't need the stacks anymore and they were going to gut the original stacks and take the mid- manhattan library and put them in the saxon area. they still might be doing that. the economy is different. why don't they need the stacks in the original building?
they have hollowed under bryant park all of their stacks are now under bryant park. an extraordinary building, and totally adapted to 21st century technology. it goes up in the middle of this silk stocks shopping district emerging after 1900 on fifth avenue. this is fifth avenue. we're looking north. that's 34th street. the steel frame of b. altman's department store and the new york public library, the business library, the steel frame is going up and already you have knickerbocker bank on the northwest corner of 34th and fifth and you already have tiffany's at 37th. we'll see that in a moment. at the corner predating that by about ten years, at the corner the southwest corner of 34th and fifth where the empire state building is today, back in the 1890s up went the waldorf
astoria hotel. i don't want to take too much time but family is family, doesn't matter how much money you have. here on the upper left is a view from the civil war era, about the 1870s of fifth avenue and the huge building, the huge mansion is the stewart house. across 34th street are the twin separated mansions of the astor family and they share a garden, a walled garden and the house at the corner of 34th and fifth, sorry, the how us at the corner of 34th and fifth was caroline schirmer astoria's house, william b. astoria's house, the duchess of new york, the lady with the ballroom that only held 400 people, only 400 people worth knowing and she -- well, you have been watching downton abbey, see. you see how a duchess runs society and she was running new york society that way. in the early 1890s her husband dies and her nephew inherited his father's house on 33rd street and asked him aunt to step aside for his own wife to run new york society. you did not ask caroline astoria
to step aside. she said no. he got even with her and moved his family to england and he built the waldorf hotel on the site of his house to spite his hand so every time she came home she had to deal with the hotel. she said it is 1892 and i am moving uptown and that's where everybody is going and builds aa new mansion and she builds the astoria hotel. they were physically joined but two separate hotels which is why when you write it it is an equal sign and not a dash. apparently the contract that built this building and joined it to the original waldorf. if the nephew ever bothered her again she would wall up the access between the waldorf and the astoria, one of the first grand hotels in the 20th century. when you went inside there was a beautiful, i don't know what
happened here. when you went inside there was a beautiful pathway, a concourse. we know it as peacock alley, and it kind of shows us the shift of entertainment from the houses of the wealthy of new york to public venues. back in the 19th century if you wanted to impress people you had them over to the house and did a grand spread. nobody would have a house as grand as the waldorf astoria and gradually they're shifting over entertainment to the great public venues and great public hotels and it comes down in 1930 to make way for the empire state building and reopens at park avenue and 50th street where it still is today. the stores themselves, b. altman, if you remember, some of you may remember b. altman, one of my favorite department stores. that goes up at fifth avenue and 34th street. steel frame but made to look like a renaissance palazzo and i
think a better view would be gorhams that went up at 35th street. here it is still standing today, not with gorhams in it but fifth avenue and 35th street and a florentine renaissance palazzo adapted for a specialty jewelry shop and beautiful use of glass, the upper part of the building, two or three stories of vertical strip windows and the balconies give you a feeling juliet will come can out or a gucci will come out and say hello or goodbye to you and meanwhile the lower part of the building is 50 feet of glass. amazing glass shop fronts and huge ground floor, high ceiling ground floor, mezzanine and here is a closeup of that ground floor. here we go. you notice that here are two fellows just hanging out,
schmoozing away and look at the height of that glass. you probably could not get more glass on a fifth avenue store front today but this was done to buy into the illusion of this building being a venetian renaissance palazzo, sorry, italian palazzo and the building a block away at fifth avenue and 37th, one of my favorite in the city, tiffany's of 1906. i love this building because at 11 stories high it is basically a huge glass box of 100 years ago and steel framed and it is wrapped in an exterior facade, a curtain wall that makes it look like a palazzo like you see on the upper right. the amount of glass is amazing. at night, especially this time of year it is winter and of course the sun goes down early and they throw the lights on around 4:30 and when they do you
realize it is a wonderful crystalline glass box with tissue paper covering a tissue paper sketch to look like a three-story high venetian renaissance palazzo. you think the upper part is a dead space, no way. lewis tiffany was the son of charles tiffany that built this. it is a beautiful sky lit gallery. this building, again, why did they go through all of this effort to make it look like a palazzo, those of you who are my age understand. back in the 1900s and certainly in the 1950s when i was a kid, you dressed to go on fifth avenue. i know, anyone under 40 or 50 is looking at me blankly. you dressed, and women were expected to wear a dress or suit. if they were wearing a skirt and blouse, they thought you were a clerk or belonged in the stock room.
a man was expected to wear a suit, a out and a tie. if you wore a sports jacket and slacks they thought you came in from the country and didn't have time to i think which. you were expected to dress. this shopping was an upscale activity. you were expected to dress the part. when you went inside, you paid upscale prices for the upscale items these department stores sold. it is a far cry from going to bjs or costco for 1,000 rolls of toilet tissue at whatever discount price. that is a whole different atmosphere. why do you think b.j.'s, costco and all the big box stores make themselves look like warehouses so you feel you're getting a bargain and, yes, you are, but you feel like you are not paying for the chandeliers and the wall paper and all the display cases and you did when you walked into tiffany's, and the upscale
illusion they wanted to give you went hand-in-hand with the whole activity of shopping. it was just a whole different world back then, and i grew up in it in the 1950s. by the way, if you compare tiffany's from 1906 with lever house on the right, from 1954, which one really has more operable glass and if you stop to think about it, if you look at lieber house, all of the opaque bands of glass, the dark bands of glass are opaque and all solid and they might as well be stone and if you think about it, tiffany's probably has more real window glass and more of a glass box than lieber house from 1954. look in the early evening when they light it up in the early winter sunset, a beautiful building for selling upscale merchandise with an upscale feeling. now, the idea of the department store wrapped to look like a european palace, italian palace stays with us through the 20s. sacs fifth avenue is 1924 and
looks like a european palace and when it opened in 1920s, '24 when it opened and when it was open they thought service to far uptown nobody would go to it and we know things worked out differently because new york is always changing and by the 1930s and '40s, the whole center of the upscale shopping district had moved up to 57th street. well, the era also produced brilliant transportation complexes, the airports of their day, the railroad stations, and penn station on the west side, seventh avenue between 33rd street and 31st street is still there today, and unfortunately the top of it was taken off in the 1960s, the top of it was demolished, one of the most famous demolitions in new york's history. a magnificent transportation complex, a fascinating story. i am trying to think of jill johns, her non-fiction work on
penn station i think called "conquering gotham," wonderful story on how this was built and lorraine deale, the late great pennsylvania station, a wonderful story worth telling. i could spend an hour on it itself. on seventh avenue in the middle of the smacher district was this elegant entrance way with a central portico with pedestrians to enter a shopping concourse that took you to the waiting room. will you see that in the moment. the end porticos were for taxis and cars brought you down ramps so when you arrived at the middle of the block you were one level before the street at the level of great waiting room on the way to the train concourses that faced eighth avenue. it is the same today, just not very elegant but still laid out that way today. this all was part of a transportation complex that was
long distance and necessitated the building of the hell gate bridge and from new york access to new england and also became the nexus of an electric commuter system, the long island railroad to the east and jersey transit to the west and whether it was monte clair, new jersey or great neck. they were getting away from my grandparents moving in and they came from russia and the old middle class of new york got up and left. these electric railroad commuter systems allowed them to do it because in 20 minutes you could be from seventh avenue and 33rd you could be in some deep part of jersey or the north shore of long island and the whole city will change in the next 20 years. there is your entrance. and you enter a wonderful shopping concourse beautifully lit by sunlight because there are light ports on both sides that go down to the railroad tracks three stories below.
you get to a beautiful -- there is a beautiful veranda overlooking the concourse which we'll get to in a moment. you had your cheap quick food on the right, your expensive table cloth restaurant on the left. you went down the steps into this magnificent waiting room that is parallel with seventh and eighth avenue. and then when your train was called you went to the train concourse which i outlined in blue, because it was all sky lit. if you're coming by foot from 33rd or 31st street, you would enter in the middle of the block, you can see a portico there in the middle of the elevation, and walk over a pedestrian bridge with cars and taxis underneath you. enter a balcony overlooking the concourse and the waiting room and come down a grand stair and you were in the waiting room, as well. it was brilliantly thought through. here is what it looked like. this is a 1911 sketch of the
shopping concourse leading to the waiting room. seventh avenue in back of us. the waiting room is in front of us. light pours in through the windows, look at those shop fronts. there is a person. that's all glass. that's 30 feet. looks like 30 feet of glass. with the finest of millions holding them in place. this was all about light and glass though the illusion was monumentalism and stone. we good down to the concourse, here is the grand stair leading from the shopping concourse into the waiting room and the waiting room itself, it is designed as a stage. it's all steel framing but designed as a stage set to represent the bass of perikala. i'm not talking about religious church architecture but probably one of the largest such secular rooms created since the roman empire. the romans had reinforced concrete. we had steel framing.
magnificent entry to the city, a magnificent exit from the city. yet it also included where to eat, where to shop, where to get tickets, where to hang out. benches to sit on. you're looking at the 33rd street entrance. you have come over the pedestrian bridge from 33rd street. the taxis, cars, dropped off people here. everybody comes down through the waiting room. remember the trains are three stories below and they are trying to get you three stories down to the trains. now, it was modeled, here is on the left again, the waiting room at penn station, on the right the ruins in rome. you notice how high people are. these are wonderful things. when you go to rome you should visit the ruins of ancient rome first and understand the late roman empire and then go to st. peter's and then you'll get st.
peter's. but the architects who designed penn station visited rome while they were studying in paris. they knew these ruins first-hand. they understood the scale of the ancient world, they translated it into 20th century steel frame construction. giving us a stage set that was a magnificent entry and exit of the city, yet, when you went to catch your train and you went through the arched opening on the left, you entered a totally high tech glass and metal train shed, it was all glass, all metal, no decoration, except for a clock because you're not hanging out here, you're running to get your train. and you need to see the trains are another level below or two levels, you need as much light as possible. so, pennsylvania station had, basically, it had the basil but it also had this functionalist absolutely structurous, minimalist train concourse
because if that's what was needed they were ready to provide it. these are trained architects. they were american so they took that training, that 400-year tradition and applied it to the practical needs of a mass society and to the high-tech, technology that we were coming up with in the early 20th century. penn station and as a result here it is being demolished. and as a result of this demolition you know, this is why the landmark commission was set up so that this kind of thing would never happen again. and it's ironic that their competitor across town, the new york central railroad, the landmark commission had its biggest test over whether grand central could be landmarked and of course the landmark commission won. the original grand central of 1871, this is what it looked like. it was fine for 1871. north of it stretching from 42nd to 50th street, well basically about 44th to 50th street, smoky, dirty, smelly,
cinder-filled railroad yard. really was awful smoky mess. nobody cared. because in 1871 few people lived north of 42nd street. most people are living north of 42nd street and this had to go w. a train accident in 1903 it had to go. well, in place of this smoky railroad yard, william wilgus the engineer in 1903 look what he does. from the same viewpoint he creates in 1903 a sketch. in which he foresees steel framing the railroad yard, double decking it, sing sinking it below the street level of the city and for the first time since 1870 extending the cross-town streets across the railroad yard, extending park avenue, creating a highway that would run around grand central terminal and by electrifying all of the train operations he could build buildings over the train
yards. so he is creating the concept of air rights over 100 years ago. and there is only one place you need air rights, that's in new york because there is only one place you would want to build on something that is already there. and this incredible vision is all done, you realize the traffic that he sketches in 1903. it's all horses and carriages. there are no cars yet. we're going from the middle ages to the 20th and 21st century. now, here it is being constructed in 1909 on the left. in 1909 the head house as we know it as grand central terminal is going up on the right. you can see the steel framing of the railroad yard. all of that is there buried under the streets. we don't know it's there, actually. here is grand central terminal finished in 1913. they haven't built the viaduct for the highway yet but include
add highway around the building, you're not even aware of it. the neoclassical balustrade, camouflage the highway. you don't know cars are speeding around over your head. oblivious to that. the facade with its huge windows very simple single monumental facade, in back of it a complicated building. but you don't need to know those complications, the simplicity, the magnificence of the facade makes it a real landmark in the city, you come up park avenue south and it's lit up at night and you can only be in new york city. and yet, behind that very simple monumental facade what a cod piece of real estate development this is. here you see there, now you see the highway. i'm sure you know of it if you drive around the city you take cabs. you're walking on 42nd street you don't know that exists. behind the actual facade here is another cross section where you get a better idea. look there on the right is the
south facade of grand central where you see on the upper right. immediately in back of it you notice the 75-foot high windows, two-thirds of the window is devoted to the waiting room. they call it vanderbilt hall where the christmas market is. above it is a vaulted space but the rest of the windows where the new york central executives had office space. and the cornice in back of the cornice, north facing skylights lit up the grand central art gallery, today the metro north control center for the commuter train system. you notice the concourse building, the concourse is in a separate building from the waiting room. and there's a five-story back office building separate from the concourse building. three separate buildings, but one frontage. light courts between the three buildings, light comes through windows into the concourse, the concourse is in the bed of 43rd street so the east and west windows will never be darkened by buildings blocking them.